17 December 2010
Posted by Paul Anater at 5:59 PM
In case you've been living under a rock, Time Magazine just named Mark Zuckerberg as 2010's person of the Year. So now the founder of Facebook joins such luminaries as 1935's Haile Selassie, 1938's Adolf Hitler, 1939's Josef Stalin, 1942's Josef Stalin, 1957's Nikita Khrushchev, 1965's Gen. William Westmoreland, 1971's Richard Nixon, 1979's Ayatollah Komeini, 1995's Newt Gingrich, 2000's George W. Bush, 2004's George W. Bush and 2007's Vladmir Putin. Time's Person of the Year roster goes back to 1927 and it reads as much like a rogue's gallery as it does a hall of superheroes.
Predictably, the chattering class of the blogosphere hailed Zuckerberg and Facebook as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Well, I don't think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Don't get me wrong, Facebook changed and is changing the way people use the internet. In a lot of ways, Facebook brought the social web to the masses. That's a huge achievement.
But Zuckerberg and Facebook are standing on some very broad shoulders and before too long, somebody else will come along to alter the fabric of the internet once again.
In 1979, my dad invented a modem. We had a computer at home and every once in a while, we'd call a telephone number in New Jersey. Once connected, we'd set the telephone receiver in the cradle of the modem and we'd log onto with something called The Source. The Source had weather updates and bulletin boards and was an early, early form of the civilian internet. We thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
A little while later, modems improved and got faster. By the early '80s, you didn't need to dial a telephone anymore and my first e-mail address came to me through a little something called CompuServe.
Everybody thought CompuServe was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
In 1993, I was trailblazing user of something called America Online. Back then, AOL didn't have a graphic interface, it was all text. In about 1994, AOL came out with a graphic interface and it was like nothing I'd ever seen.
By 1999, AOL owned the internet it seemed. You couldn't be cool in 1999 if you didn't have an e-mail address that ended in aol.com. Everybody thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
And now we're in the era of Facebook. Just like AOL though, Facebook is a walled garden, a dead end. It pulls people in and keeps them there, sequestered from the rest of the internet. It's Facebook's Achilles heel. And like AOL before it, something else will come along to take its place.
When that something arrives, everyone will think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.